Shannon Airport ‘in impossible situation’

SHANNON airport is operating with both hands behind its back and in the impossible situation of having to compete against its employer, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), and the newly opened T2.

That is the view of Limerick East TD, Kieran O’Donnell (FG), who said Shannon must become independent in a debt-free way.

Deputy O’Donnell said: “It should not be laden down with debt.”

The FG deputy finance spokesman said that Aer Rianta International (ARI) — which returned pre-tax profits of €30 million last year — was the brainchild of Shannon Airport and should be returned to the airport.

ARI has its head office at Shannon Airport, but is an independent company within DAA.

Mr O’Donnell said: “It pulls in significant profits on an annual basis and I believe it should be allowed to return to the running of Shannon Airport.

“What is needed is an airport that is in command of its own destiny, that is not laden down with debt but is debt free and that can compete with the DAA on an equal basis.

“Shannon Airport must be made independent, which always was the intention under the original legislation.”

Mr O’Donnell said that the SAA five-year plan is aiming to have 2.5 million passengers by 2015 and one factor that may be instrumental in achieving this target was the removal of the punitive €10 travel tax “It made no sense at the time of its introduction and many other countries have removed similar measures.”

He added: “There must be an element of common sense in government and it makes no sense to introduce a tax that brings in only approximately €100m, but that takes from an airport and a region by driving away tourist activity.

Mr O’Donnell claimed: “This is short-sighted and a key feature of the Government has been that it has made decisions that are purely about short-term revenue collection but which have enormous consequences in the long term for employment and the number of flights arriving at Shannon in particular.”

In response, Defence Minister Tony Killeen said: “To blame the introduction of a modest air travel tax of €10 for the reduction in passenger numbers is stretching credibility.

“In addition, it does not stack up that an airline that complained vigorously about the €10 air tax on the basis of price sensitivity of customers can then introduce a non-discretionary online check-in fee of €5 per flight, or €10 per return flight.

“The introduction of a relatively modest air travel tax was an important revenue raising measure in the context of the significant financial challenges we now face,” he said.

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